With the rise of Michelin star organic restaurants, non-toxic beauty, and farm-to-fashion designer collections, it was only a matter of time before eco-luxe travel took flight. For the Bawah Reserve, an environmentally conscious island getaway located in Indonesia’s Anambas Archipelago, this mindful green mission holds paramount.
Bawah Reserve opened last year and is making waves in the sustainable travel scene—and for good reason! The six-island destination is spearheading an impressive 360-degree sustainable and socially-responsible hospitality approach that is layered with impact so you can travel the world, while protecting it at the same time. From the hotel’s green design and organic food to the local Indonesian staff and miniscule mindful details like organic toothpaste and nontoxic detergent, this oasis executes an all-encompassing conscious strategy founded with a grounded luxury approach.
MY ECO EXPERIENCE
After an overnight at The Six Senses Singapore, one ferry ride, and one private seaplane later, I landed in Bawah. When I wasn’t chauffeured by electric buggy (the only transport on the island besides two solar-powered boats), I walked through the island village to the clam-shaped capped pavilions for farm-fresh food, green juice, and all-natural spa treatments—daily spa visits are included.
Experiences are typically tethered to nature in some way—think snorkeling, yoga, cooking classes, and sunrise hikes. The reserve also operates plastic-free and sells reef-friendly, vegan sunscreen and repellent products.
Once the sun set, I would raise my bungalow’s bamboo walls to transform my lodging into an open-air, beach-front abode and read about the small eco-friendly gift that was placed on my pillow nightly. The keepsake always taught me something unique about the Indonesian culture coupled with Bawah Reserve’s conscious ethos. Those small sustainable touches made all the difference.
Bawah Reserve’s architect Sim Boon Yang of Singapore’s ECO-ID designed the hotel’s elevated, exotic style to mirror the island’s natural beauty. The architectural wonder was slowly built over five years by hand and utilized mostly reclaimed driftwood, teak and sustainable bamboo sourced from Java. “No heavy machinery was used during the construction… some of building techniques date back to early man,” said Chief Operating Office, Paul Robinson.
The hotel currently includes 35 intimate dwellings, four open-air dining options, and one wellness spa on the main island (with construction in-progress on others). Nestled behind the dwellings and into the jungle, you can tour the reserve’s operational ecosystem that includes, but is not limited to: a permaculture garden, a reverse-osmosis treatment plant that recycles and treats salt and rain water, a compost system, and a micro-power grid. Alas, the Bawah Reserve recognizes that sustainable conservation goes beyond conscious design and operations. Conservation is key to preserving this paradise.
The Bawah Anambas Foundation (BAF) was founded in April 2018 to help bolster Bawah Reserve’s social and environmental initiatives. The foundation, piloted by Jerry Winata, leads by the mission “above, below, and beyond,” conveying the organization’s support for forest and marine conservation as well as their community development program.
Thus far, BAF has conducted marine and forest biodiversity baseline assessments, created coral tree nurseries, which you can visit during scuba excursions, replanted various endangered indigenous plants and so much more. At the most recent Our Ocean Conference, the newly launched foundation pledged an approximate $470,000 commitment to reduce marine pollution and improve their marine park management—a very generous undertaking for such a small, young foundation.
“In the future, we also hope to be working closer with the district capital and have a strong focus on waste management….in particular, the upcycling effort…turning recyclable plastic into bricks, glass into tiles, and waste oil into fuel,” said Winata. The upcycling pilot program will start on one island in 2019. As Bawah and the foundation continues to grow and evolve, so does the impact on the local area.
THE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
BAF is not only working with local communities, but the Anambas government, NGOs, research institutions and more to initiate action and awareness beyond Bawah. To help educate neighboring islands on the importance of sustainability, BAF has implemented various livelihood programs in three villages—Kiabu, Mengkait, and Telaga—including digital English education, organic farming, and solid waste management training and employment. “The support that we have gained from the local government (in the villages) with solid management has been remarkable…head officials in Kiabu village have committed to two trash pickers (AKA trash heros) in their own budget, meaning these workers will be paid the same salary as a village government administrator,” said Winata.
By providing the surrounding community with these fundamental programs, BAF is reducing ocean dependence in the area and enabling economic development. Consequently, the Bawah Reserve is able to become a vehicle for upward mobility and the hotel is able to maintain an authentic Indonesian influence at the resort—a win-win. “Our boat drivers are local so they know all about the water conditions and how this affects diving and snorkeling,” said Robinson. This symbiotic relationship between the community and the reserve helps reinforce the necessary sustainable circular system the area needs to survive and thrive.
Bawah Reserve is far more than a tick off the globetrotter bucket list. The destination is a retreat into nature to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and reconnect with nature, yourself, and your loved ones all while learning about the deeply-rooted Indonesian culture. Bawah Reserve is a trailblazing leader in the sustainable travel space, paving the way towards a more eco-friendly future—one that doesn’t compromise luxury.